The Weirdest Ig Nobel Prize Winners This Year, Ranked From Strange To Flat-Out Insane
We're all familiar with the Nobel Prize — a.k.a. the most esteemed prize in existence — but I'm willing to bet that none of its recognized achievements have made anyone laugh. That's the beauty of the Ig Nobel Prize, which honors "achievements that first make people laugh, and then makes them think." This year's Ig Nobel Prize winners are no different — some are so outrageous they'll keep you thinking for a good long while. But as silly as the experiments are, the actual science behind them is well-founded and even groundbreaking.
Similar to the Nobel Prize, the Ig Nobel Prize awards prizes in separate categories, but instead of a paltry six, the Ig Nobel Prize recognizes advancements in 10 fields, which vary from year to year. Besides some mainstay prizes like Chemistry, Physics, and Psychology, past years have also included the Acoustics Prize, Transportation Planning Prize, and Fluid Dynamics Prize.
Organized by the scientific humor publication Annals of Improbable Research and co-sponsored by two Harvard University science associations, the award ceremony takes place every September in Harvard's Sanders Theatre. As kooky as the awards are — the official mascot of the Ig Nobel Prize is "The Stinker," a fallen-over version of The Thinker — the prizes are handed out by actual Nobel Prize Laureates.
We can only imagine what they must be thinking when they hand out a Peace Prize to someone who discovered — probably through legitimate scientific deduction — that you can easily resolve the issue of illegally parked luxury cars by running them over with an armored tank (a real winner, from 2011).
Here, we're ranking the winners of the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize, the theme of which was food, in order of sheer weirdness.
10. Economics Prize
The Italian government's National Institute of Statistics received the prize for taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase its national economy by including revenue made from prostitution, drug smuggling, and other illegal activities.
9. Physics Prize
Japan's Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai won for solving the age-old problem of slipping on a banana peel by measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor.
8. Psychology Prize
Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons were awarded for figuring out that night owls are more vain, manipulative, and psychopathic than morning people. Makes sense, since nighttime is when all that brooding introspection takes place.
7. Art Prize
Italy's Marina de Tommaso, Michele Sardaro, and Paolo Livrea received the prize for measuring the pain felt by someone being shot by a powerful laser beam while looking at a pretty painting vs. an ugly one.
6. Biology Prize
Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek, Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda were all awarded for providing scientific evidence that when dogs go number one and number two, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth's north-south geomagnetic field lines.
5. Public Health Prize
Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček, Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, and Lisa Seyfried received the prize for examining whether it's mentally detrimental for humans to own a cat. I could have told you that one: yes, very much so. (Sorry, cat lovers.)
4. Medicine Prize
Ian Humphreys, Sonal Saraiya, Walter Belenky and James Dworkin won for discovering that you can stop uncontrollable nosebleeds by stuffing strips of cured pork up your nostrils. Hey, it's probably better than that old tampon trick.
3. Arctic Science Prize
Eigil Reimers and Sindre Eftestøl were awarded for their in-depth experiment to see how reindeer react when they encounter humans disguised as polar bears.
2. Neuroscience Prize
Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee won for examining what happens in someone's brain when they see Jesus' face in a piece of toast, concluding that the phenomenon is perfectly normal and maybe even healthy.
1. Nutrition Przie
Spain's Raquel Rubio, Anna Jofré, Belén Martín, Teresa Aymerich, and Margarita Garriga won for studying the lactic acid bacteria in baby poo and its potential use as a probiotic starter culture for fermented sausages. Can we not?